How to Thrive Using Synchronous Learning in Online Courses

By Percy Mkhwanazi |

Online education has been growing in popularity and accessibility, especially over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning has attracted both students and teachers with its flexible and schedule-friendly format options. These formats can be grouped broadly into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous learning is online or distance education in real-time, often with a set class schedule and required login times.

Asynchronous learning does not require real-time interaction; instead, content is available online for students to access when it best suits their schedules, and assignments are completed to deadlines. Programs can also use a hybrid learning model, which includes a blend of both formats.

With synchronous online learning, students interact regularly and frequently with professors and can get to know them. This format provides regular opportunities for face-to-face discussion, individual guidance, and mentorship without scheduling independent appointments. If a student does their best work when they have accessible and supportive instruction, they’re probably a synchronous learner.

For some learning styles, a synchronous online format improves classroom learning because it allows for a more dynamic exploration of topics, ideas, and concepts. There is an immediacy to synchronous online learning; video conferencing makes it possible to ask peers and TAs questions and receive answers mid-lesson. Not being in a lecture hall means a student can do their own research on the side without disrupting class. If a student thrives at a swift pace, surrounded by competing and complementary ideas, a synchronous format might suit them well.

If a student enjoys active discussion, immediate feedback, and personal interactions with peers and instructors, they’ll probably prefer a synchronous learning experience. This format can be especially helpful if they’re beginning the transition from a traditional classroom to an online setting. Live video-conferencing, lecture broadcasts, and chatting in real-time in a messaging client can offer much of the personal engagement available in a classroom while also allowing learners the comforts of home and no commute time. Plus, they won’t ever have to worry about germs during cold and flu season.

The coolest thing about online learning is that students don’t have to choose just one way of doing it. Many online college courses use synchronous and asynchronous learning, combining real-time conferencing with self-paced assignments, or balancing pre-taped lectures with live discussion sessions. Every online education model is different, and the very best online learning programs use the best of both models to produce enriching online education experiences.


Percy Mkhwanazi

Percy Mkhwanazi

Learning Technologist at Construct